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When can the police lawfully frisk or bodily search someone?

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2024 | Criminal Defense

There are multiple types of searches that police officers in North Dakota sometimes conduct as part of their jobs. They may search private residences, businesses or vehicles in some scenarios. They may also need to search someone’s body in a couple of situations.

Physical searches of someone’s person are the most invasive searches that law enforcement professionals regularly perform. They have also been the subject of intense dispute historically. So-called Terry stops or public stop-and-frisk interactions can lead to violations of an individual’s rights.

When do police officers in North Dakota have the lawful option of physically searching someone’s body?

When they conduct an arrest

The most common reason that police officers need to physically search someone is that they intend to take them into state custody. A thorough physical search is a necessary part of that process. Searches prevent those taken into state custody from introducing weapons, drugs and other contraband to state facilities. Provided that a police officer has the probable cause necessary to justify an arrest, they can typically justify searching someone during that arrest as part of the process.

When they suspect a weapon

The only other reason that a police officer could physically search someone’s body is when the officer has probable cause to suspect the presence of a weapon. That suspicion needs to be reasonable based on factors such as the appearance of someone’s clothing or their conduct during the interaction with the officer. If a police officer believes someone has drugs or other illegal items in their possession, that suspicion alone is not cause to physically search the individual. Sometimes, police officers who could not justify a search ask for permission as a way of sidestepping the legal restrictions on police officer activity.

Individuals who know their rights can more effectively stand up for themselves during interactions with state authorities. They might also be able to use claims of inappropriate search conduct as part of a broader defense strategy when facing criminal charges. Understanding the rules that limit police officer actions, including searches without warrants can be beneficial for anyone accused of violating the law in North Dakota. Knowing about one’s basic legal rights can help people handle interactions with the police and stand up for themselves after an arrest alike.